“Are you nervous?”, my wife queried.
“Na.a.a. I don’t get scared anymore.” That settled, I released my seat belt, opened the car door and stepped onto the Senior Center parking lot. A steady stream of locals moved toward the entrance, smiling and nodding to us as we wheeled an overnight bag filled with books, marketing paraphernalia and my 35 minute speech into the building.
Inside, we crossed paths with the facility’s director. “What will you be needing?” . . . a troubling question, given I had already made my needs known by phone. I was unsure whether she heard part two of my response as she sped away in search of a table.
As we entered the assembly hall, nearly 100 people seated at tables scattered around the room interrupted their conversations to inspect the newcomers. I searched for a podium, a table, a projector and screen – anything to identify the front – and saw none. Nearly 100 people went back to their conversations. One nice lady leaned forward. “Are you our guest speaker?” I nodded and she pointed to a long table where several ladies seemed engaged with those who stood in front of them. “She’s in charge.” (It wasn’t the same person who met us at the door.)
“Hello. I’m Rick Iekel.”
The lady at the table looked up. “Where would you like to set up?”
Unsure, I looked around. “Which is the front?” I asked. She didn’t answer, having returned to her table business.
At that, a table, laptop, projector and screen appeared and someone asked, “Where do you want these?” One corner of the room seemed an appropriate focal point so I pointed to it. “Over there.” Instantly, it became the front. A team of three began connecting wires, adjusting equipment and screen, and bringing my first overhead into proper focus
During a brief business meeting prior to my talk, I arranged and re-arranged my material and found a handy spot for the book from which I would read several excerpts. That done, I exchanged the paper and book locations, wondered if I would be able to read the print (Times New Roman, size 12 ) and searched the crowd for their general disposition. One face smiled back at me – my wife’s – while the others appeared to be unaware I was there.
“Our guest speaker today is Rick Iekel.”
At that everyone looked at me, so I stood up.
“Will you be needing a microphone?’
I looked out at the crowd. “No, I don’t think so. . . .Can you all hear me OK?”
A voice from the rear responded with a clear, “No.”
So, the president passed a hand-held mike to me. “Use this.”
With all the confidence of a middle-schooler engaged an oral foreign language exam, I began my presentation. It went reasonably well until the cursor on my laptop disappeared as I tried to change overhead views while carrying the hand-held mike, trying to flip to the proper page in my book and losing my place in the speech text looking up at me from the table.
In the end, though, the presentation was well received. No one fell asleep. Everyone seemed attentive. I heard no negative comments about my several mishaps. Afterwards, several stopped to converse before leaving, and I sold 22 books. Not bad!